Scottish authorities criticised for sustained history of data loss

The Liberal Democrats have discovered information about the extent of data loss from public sector organisations based in Scotland, covering institutions controlled by the NHS, police and local councils.

In the first six months of 2010, a wide range of devices were lost by seven different NHS trusts in Scotland. Among the data were patient details covering more than 100 individuals linked with a drugs rehabilitation program.

In Glasgow eight laptops, three desktops and six portable storage devices were stolen, with the most brazen robbery taking place from within an X-ray viewing cubicle in the spring of this year.

Unencrypted data was unwittingly lost by Strathclyde Police when a USB storage drive was reported as having been misplaced. This event was all the more serious because it contained notes relating to ongoing investigations.

Scottish councils were responsible for the loss of five laptops on which private data relating to local school children was stored, along with more than 60 PCs lost or stolen from educational establishments themselves.

The findings suggest that a majority of the data stored on these council-managed devices was actually encrypted, or indeed was unimportant and did not relate to any local citizens.

The Liberal Democrats have been vocal in their call for immediate improvements to data protection and management within the public sector, after discovering the extent of the problem. It said that the presence of encryption would not be enough to instil trust in the public.

Liberal Democrat spokesperson Robert Brown, said that public sector organisations had to appreciate that being charged with the protection of private data was a big responsibility. He also claimed that the Scottish authorities are failing to deal with a worsening situation.

A spokesperson for the Scottish government, said that the security of data during transmission and storage were something which it believes to be of utmost importance and, as such, it has rigorous policies governing data protection.

The spokesperson was keen to point out that the ultimate responsibility lies with the individual organisations and not with the central authorities.

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